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Hard-hitting Lakes handles Round Lake
By Joe Aguilar | Daily Herald Staff

Lakes' Donte Arnold grinds out one more yard as he is dragged down by three Round Lake defenders including Antonio Farley, right, at Round Lake on Saturday, October 2.


George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Lakes' Donte Arnold, left, gives Parker Blain a had after Arnold scored the first touchdown of the game against Round Lake on Saturday, October 2.


George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Lakes' Donte Arnold scores the first touchdown of the game against Round Lake on Saturday, October 2.


George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Lakes' Michael Pfeiffer plows ahead on his way to 119 yards on 14 carries in Lakes' victory over Round Lake on Saturday.


George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Round Lake's Jacoby Griffin stiff-arms a Lakes defender.


George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/2/2010 9:53 PM

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Howling winds had batted enough passes and punts, and then Lakes defensive back Nick Tognocchi provided another gust.

He knocked the wind right out of Round Lake's Jacoby Griffin seemingly, anyway.

"We like those big hits like that one Tognocchi had," said Lakes linebacker Devin Grote, smiling. "That just got us going."

As Tognocchi hopped in excitement, energized by his big hit on the incomplete pass over the middle, Griffin lay on Round Lake's football field. Griffin proved unfazed, however.

Lakes won 28-14 on a gloomy Saturday, but Round Lake never quit on its homecoming. Griffin scored two late touchdowns to make the final score of the North Suburban Prairie Division contest respectable.

Lakes (5-1, 2-1) moved within 1 win of clinching its second straight playoff berth and third in six seasons as a varsity program. The Eagles visit Antioch on Friday night, before hosting Wauconda and finishing the regular season at Grant.

"These are three good teams that we're going up against," Grote said. "They're no joke. Antioch's got a good offense, so our defense is going to have to play better than we did today."

"We played terrible," Eagles linebacker Tyler Menheer said.

Lakes' offense played without its top two running backs. James Zell missed his third straight game with a knee injury and will be a "game-time decision" against Antioch, coach Luke Mertens said. Direll Clark suffered a broken ankle in the Eagles' win over Zion-Benton the previous week and will be out six weeks, Mertens said.

Taking advantage of his opportunity to be Lakes' feature back, Michael Pfeiffer became the third Eagles running back this season to rush for more than 100 yards in a game. Pfeiffer carried 19 times for 114 yards, with his 1-yard run making it 20-0 late in the third quarter.

"He did a great job," Mertens said. "Ironically, he's banged up, too. He has a sore back and a twisted ankle. He had a very gritty performance, despite how banged up he was."

Tognocchi made an impact on offense, too, as his only carry resulted in a 9-yard touchdown run that started the scoring early in the second quarter.

Running back Donte Arnold, who took some snaps out of a "Wildcat" formation, scored from 16 yards out on Lakes' next possession. The three-play drive followed a 10-yard punt into the wind that gave the visitors the ball at the Round Lake 25.

"This was about as tough as a wind as I've ever been a part of in football," Mertens said. "It definitely changes what you can do."

While Lakes struggled to find any rhythm offensively, its defense was sound after Grote recovered a Round Lake fumble at the Lakes 14 in the opening quarter, spoiling a Panthers drive that started at the Lakes 48.

"We were excited to play we always are," Grote said. "We like swarming to the ball."

Arnold and Brody Griffin had interceptions for Lakes, which limited Round Lake to 37 rushing yards.

"Our defense is really good," said Menheer, whose fumble recovery led to Pfeiffer's third-quarter TD run. "We came out flat, but our second half was different. We play better in the second half, for some reason."

Round Lake (1-5, 0-4) averted a shutout when Griffin scored from 4 yards out with 1:27 left. Griffin raced 19 yards into the end zone on a screen pass from Anthony Gutierrez with 9 seconds to go. Both Griffin and Andrew Parnell had 4 receptions.

"I'm just disappointed," Round Lake coach John Coursey said. "We work hard in practice and try to correct the things that we do wrong each week, but it's the fumbles and penalties that kill us. We're becoming more competitive at times, but not consistently enough."

Lakes was gladly taking the victory, its third in a row.

"At the end of the day, you got to win the game, and we did that," Mertens said. "Obviously it wasn't very impressive, and we're going to have to be much better the next three weeks."